The wonder of God’s spirit is not that it is another person from the Father: It isn’t. The truth is more amazing than that. The wonder is that the Father is so mighty that he can sit on the throne of the universe and yet at the same time be moving upon the earth. By his own spirit, he can be in more than one place at a time. He really is Almighty!
With the Father alone, all things are possible.
If not, then he isn’t truly almighty.
Whom Shall We Worship?
But the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm is the one to whom you must give worship. To him you shall bow down and to him make sacrifices (2 Kings 17:36).
To his people of old, worshipping anyone or anything as being God of the universe other than the LORD himself is unimaginable. They will magnify the one on the throne for his “great power and outstretched arm.” But, the command is to worship the one whose great power and arm they are. It is to him that they shall bow down. They direct their worship to the LORD himself — not to his spirit as though it were another person. Notice these words from the 139th Psalm:
Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast (Ps. 139:7–10, NRSV).
David extols the one on the throne for his spirit, his presence. He marvels at the “hand of God that will lead him” and at God’s “right hand that will hold him fast.” Yet, David is not addressing worship to the “spirit” of God or to his “hand.” All of the praise is to the one whose spirit and hand they are. In the Bible, people do not address worship to aspects or facets of God.
To his people of old, it would make no sense to give thanks directly to the “hand of God” or the “spirit of God.” It would be like a man being handed a gift from a friend and then thanking “the hand” of his friend. What one’s hand has done, the friend himself has done. The thanksgiving then is to the friend — the entire person — not to his “hand.” Again, in the Scriptures, they thank God himself for what is done. They do not directly thank his “power” or his “spirit.”
God’s people of old bow to the Father on his throne. They bow to his kings and to his Messiah after he is born. However, from Genesis to Revelation, neither angels nor human beings are ever said to bow before the holy spirit of God.
Likewise, no one in the Bible ever prayed to the “spirit of God.” Just as praise and thanksgiving are directed to the one on the throne, so also are prayers and requests for help. This is the case even when the prayer is in regard to God’s presence or spirit.
Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me (Ps. 51:11, NRSV).
People in the Bible do not pray to God’s spirit asking it to come or to remain with them. All requests are made to the one whose spirit it is. Again, it would be like desiring that a friend would hand you something, and then asking his hand itself to do it. The requests are made to the friend — the whole person — not to his hand.
An Apology to the Father
The doctrine of the Trinity came into existence in the centuries after the Bible was written. With that came liturgy, prayers and worship directed to the spirit of God. Most Christians today are not aware that there was no creedal statement on the spirit of God as a separate person of Deity until it was asserted at a council in Alexandria in 362 CE and set in creed at the Council of Constantinople in 381 CE. That creed set forward the post-biblical idea that God’s spirit is to be worshipped and glorified as a person along with the Father and the Son.
Now, people sometimes express concern because there is a tendency for Christians to worship the “Spirit of God” with less passion or reverence than the Father. The concern is that the “Spirit” is being slighted. However, to the people of the Bible, such a concern is entirely backwards. It is the Father who is diminished when people worship his spirit as though it were a person in itself. It is the Father to whom we owe apologies.
God never directs anyone in the Bible to pray to “his hand” or to “his spirit.” Most Christians find it awkward to pray to God’s spirit. We are sometimes prompted to do so by modern Christian ministers. Everyone should be aware that in the Bible itself, people did not pray to the spirit of God. Our tendency to shrink from praying to his spirit is actually scripturally well grounded. We should not allow ourselves as Christians today to be pressed into doing something that God’s people in the Bible did not do.
In the same vein, God never commands anyone in the Bible to direct worship to his hand or to his spirit. No one in the Bible does. The commands are to worship God himself. They sing songs to God. They pray to him. When they worship God, they extol all of his attributes and virtues. They laud his mighty power and his holy spirit! But as they do so — they look upward. Their words are addressed to the one on the throne.
Jesus is our perfect example in all spiritual things. He leaves no room for doubt about the matters we have been considering concerning God’s spirit. Jesus never prays to the “spirit of God.” His prayers are to the Father. There is no example where Jesus is said to “speak” with God’s spirit or have a conversation with “the spirit of God.” He speaks to God himself. Let us as Christians follow the example of Jesus. Let our prayers and worship be to the God whose holy spirit it is. Let us pray to the Father as Jesus did (Matt. 6:9–15).
Shall We Rob God?
For my own sake, it is for my own sake, I will do this. How can I let my name be dishonored? I will not yield my glory to another (Isa. 48:11).
The One God speaks. He tells of his glory as sovereign God. Who is this one? It is the LORD (v. 1, 2). If we judge him to be true, then let us serve him as God and no other. Let us give him all of the glory due God Almighty. He has given glory to his angels. He has given glory to men. From the beginning, he had a great glory in store to give his Messiah after he is born. The glory of actually being the God of the universe, however, he shares with no one.
We have misused the concept of God’s own spirit to create in our minds another “person” of Deity. No such person exists in reality. This idea has for centuries robbed people of a clear understanding of the absolute sovereignty of God. It has caused people unwittingly to give honor and glory that are due our Father to an imagined person of Deity.
We must not rob God. If we give honor to anyone or anything as being God Almighty other than the one who is saying to the prophet above, “I will not yield my glory to another,” we have robbed him. We have given a glory that is his alone to someone or something else. God’s spirit is not a separate person or personality to be worshipped. It is an exciting, extraordinary facet of the Father. God’s spirit is Deity. However, that Deity is the Father. People in post-biblical times by their teaching and creeds made God’s spirit into a separate person of co-Deity. In doing so, they divided the glory that is due our Father alone.
It is the Father that we are limiting
when we think that his spirit
is another person of Deity.
The Same One — Near and Far
It is an awesome divide. God sits in the heavens. We live out our lives upon the earth. As human beings we lack the strength and virtue to bridge the distance between ourselves and him. How can we know him? He answers that question for us:
The LORD declares: “Am I a God who is only nearby, and not also far away? Can anyone hide himself from me in secret places so that I cannot see him?” says the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” ( Jer. 23:23, 24).
It is the same one who is both near and far. The distance between God and humanity truly is an awesome divide. Yet that distance has been bridged by God himself. By his spirit, the Father has reached out to us and works directly for his people. It is the exact same one who is nearby, far away, and fills heaven and earth. He is wholly sufficient. The Father alone is God.
[14.] Emphasis added.
[15.] The reader will find a fuller consideration regarding worship of God’s kings and of the Messiah in chapter 9 of this book.
[16.] Emphasis added.
[17.] Various examples of this are found in modern pop-theology. E.g., Benny Hinn, Good Morning Holy Spirit (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004); Francis Chan, Forgotten God (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishing, 2009) and Robert Morris, The God I Never Knew (Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2011).
[18.] Theologians have long struggled to convince the church-going public that they should pray to and worship God’s spirit as though it were a person. Today their cause is better advanced by well-intended Christian song writers and musical artists. Those unsuspecting people are found using their considerable talents to persuade the public by songs that they should treat the spirit of God as a separate person. They could save the Christian community a great deal of error and confusion by modeling their songs about the spirit after songs (psalms) in the Bible. Again, those songs address worship to God, the One whose spirit it is (Psalm 139:7–10; 104:30; 143:10).[/fusion_text][/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]